A young couple bound for Dubai, who tried to smuggle out local and foreign currency amounting to Rs.88 million, making it the largest ever detection of local currency, were stopped by officials of the Customs Narcotics Control Unit at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) last night.
The couple was searched by the officials on suspicion when they tried to leave the airport through the 'Silk Route' private lounge with their baggage, Customs Spokesman Deputy Director Sunil Jayaratne said.
A 24-year-old man and his lady partner aged 22 were to leave for Dubai on Srilankan Airlines flight UL225, which was scheduled to depart at 6.25pm yesterday.
The couple who claimed to be business people had told Customs officials that they were from Dematagoda.
Customs Deputy Director at the BIA Parakrama Basnayake told the Daily Mirror that they had stopped the couple when they were waiting at the paid private lounge 'Silk Route'.
He said the couple was suspected to have used the services of the private lounge which is similar to that of a VIP lounge to attract less suspicion to their actions by the airport authorities.
The currency included a large amount of wads of Rs.1, 000 notes amounting to Rs.44 million, US Dollars 45,000, Euros 35,000, Omani Riyals 4,000, Bahrain Dinar 2,685, Saudi Riyals 599,500 and UAE Dirhams 72, 000.
Mr. Basnayake said the Customs authorities at the BIA had thwarted 17 attempts to smuggle out Rs.320 million worth of currency this year to date and this detection including Sri Lankan Rupees amounting to 44 million is considered to be the biggest stash of local currency ever detected while attempting to smuggle it out of the country in Customs history.
The currency was found neatly packed in black polythene bags in the check-in baggage of the suspects.
Customs suspects that the young couple might have been used as pawns by a third party to courier the currencies from Sri Lanka to Dubai.
The detection was made by Assistant Superintendents Nuwan Abeynayake, Rasika Samanjith and Srilal Ananda. Investigations are underway under the direction of Superintendent Nissanka Rathnayake on the instructions of Director Parakrama Basnayake and Deputy Directors Darshana Silva and Hapugaskumbura. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)